Hello everyone, I haven't been able to finish writing the update and I am busy in too many things this week. My kids are having exams, my younger one celebrates her birthday on 26th, I have to wrap up all aspects of The Masquerade, including blurb, bio, cover, and acknowledgments, my clinic has loads of appointments, and some paperwork is pending. In short, you all will have to wait for a bit :)...
Apologies for keeping you all waiting yesterday. I had written most of it but couldn’t finish it on time. So, I slept.
Overwhelmed with the response to the last update. Thank you. You have no idea how you make me feel so special and privileged. Love you people!
“The girl sitting before me, right now – This is my girl! And I am madly in love with her.”
She had no words to this. He hardly ever spoke so much. But when he did, he made sure that everyone else became speechless. And that’s exactly what happened with her.
He had not only read her and missed her original self but ensured that she stayed rooted to him while swaying away in her problems. In a true sense, he had been an anchor to her.
While she had been angry with him, he had done his best to shake her out of the silent trance that she was slipping into. She needed that shaking up to start reacting to things troubling her. And she had done exactly that. Exactly like he had imagined. She was missing herself too.
And she may not have found herself completely, she knew that she was on the way.
With a surprised look on her face, she had her eyes fixed at him. Less surprised, more grateful! Her phone had stopped ringing after buzzing for two full rings. He was holding her through her shoulders. She held his hands and brought them closer, between them, and said, “I was so angry with you and we were fighting. Why did you pay so much attention? You could have easily ignored me.”
He smiled slightly, “That is the only thing I could never do. The day I met you for the first time, I went back to the hotel and kept thinking about you. The day you asked me to accompany you to your friend’s wedding, I couldn’t shrug you out of my mind. And after that, every day was like that. One thing I know for sure is that I can never ignore you, even if I try to do that.”
Overwhelmed, she couldn’t stop tears from trickling into her eyes. These days she had become more emotional than ever. Tears had found a regular spot in her eyes and that kept her eyes reddened and slightly swollen. His heart tugged for a beat at that. He had never liked her tears. But these days, it was getting tough to tolerate them anymore.
He knew that she was a strong woman. But even strong women were allowed to lose their stability and composure once in a while. And, that had happened with her. She just needed a reminder back to herself and he didn’t fail her in holding her.
He used his thumbs to wipe her tears away, as he cradled her face in his palms. She drew closer to him when he did that. Her eyelids, her cheeks, her lips, her nose – everything was so delicate, so vulnerable, so enticing… He lowered further and brushed his nose through her cheek. She could feel his breath over her jawline and lips, inches away from her. A ripple of desire was raised inside her – wishing to close this minor gap and to kiss him like there was no tomorrow. She knew that he was feeling the same. After a moment, he did make a move, grazing his lips at the angle of her mouth hoping to kiss her ferociously but even before the touch of his lips over hers, they were startled by the ringing of the doorbell.
“Tch! God!! People have no life!” Irritated, he grumbled under his breath and slightly moved away.
For the first time, she chuckled, holding a prominent blush on her cheeks, and said, “I’ll check!”
When she got down on the bed and was about to go out, he called her, “Nandini!”
“Hmm?” She stopped near the door, holding it.
“I love the way you laugh… please stay happy all the time!” He was looking at her as if he was requesting favour from her. Then he added, a soft request, “Please?”
She smiled gloriously with immense pride on him,0 and nodded, “Hmm!”
She went out leaving him and came back within 2 minutes, with Cabir following her. This time her face was flushed like a red ripe tomato, about to explode. She was suddenly so upset that she didn’t speak anything. She just came inside the bedroom and stood in near Manik, near the almirah, folding her arms across her chest.
Cabir came inside, nervously smiled, and shrugged looking at Manik. Manik looked at Nandini and then at Cabir, and asked, “What happened? Did someone die?”
“Tch… no! Woh… Sonalika is at our home… she is Dhruv’s friend, I mean, in touch with him… you know how it is! So after leaving your home, she came to our home…”
Manik waited for more from Cabir and was beginning to lose his patience. Slow delivery of information always irritated him. He looked straight at Cabir and pointedly fixed his eyes on him, “So??”
Cabir shrugged, “So, she has lost a gold ear-ring and is doubtful that she dropped it here.”
“And she sent you to find it?” Manik couldn’t believe it.
Cabir shrugged, “She requested so politely that I couldn’t refuse. Dhruv didn’t want to come and Sonalika is still searching for it, there… so she said that I should come here and ask!”
Manik looked at him and nodded disbelievingly, “Mannn!! I can’t believe this. What made her or anyone else think that the ear-ring could be here?”
Cabir shrugged, “How do we know? She asked to search and we are searching…”
“Like idiots?” Manik suggested.
Cabir left a small sigh, “Forget it. I’ll search. Maybe, she dropped it somewhere. Nandini, will you please help? I’ll see in the kitchen and living room.”
When Cabir left, Nandini angrily moved around and started searching the bed, around the pillows and headrest. More than anger, it was irritation and frustration. Though Manik understood what she was doing, he still asked, specifying it, “May I know, what exactly are you doing?”
“Searching for the ear-ring. Sometimes it may get entangled in the linen.”
This made him furious. So angry that he didn’t speak for a long moment. She could see him clenching his jaw and spitting fire through his eyes. She twisted his lips, “Did I say something wrong? Did it anger you? What will you do, now? Won’t you ask me to get out? That’s what you do to everyone? Right?”
“Shut up!” He murmured under his breath, “You have no idea how irritating it is to see you scanning the bed for someone’s ear-ring.”
“It does get entangled…”
“Oh yeah?! We have been sleeping together for 5 months. How many times did you ear-rings drop here?”
She made a pout, trying not to remember those beautiful times when Manik would hold her in his arms for hours and squeeze her closer.
When she didn’t reply, he replied himself, shooting daggers at her, “Exactly! Zero-many-times.”
She threw the pillow back on the bed and stood straight. Manik was miffed, “This is so insulting, Nandu… you don’t trust me?!”
She walked around the bed and came to stand beside him, speaking in a pained bitter voice, “How do I trust the guy who didn’t even tell me that the ex- joined the office 2 weeks back? How do I trust him who sends me back to work, even if for my sake, while the ex- is here taking care of him… making coffee, upma…”
Her voice, her tone, her anger, her words – all signified how massively irritated she was. She had no control over her overwhelming emotions.
“Godd!!! Woman, you are so jealous!”
“Exactly! This is my house, my haven… my guy! What was she doing here? And how dare she try to take care of you?”
He didn’t reply to that. All was fine with him as long as Nandu felt this possessive for him. Even the thought of a girl with him angered her. And it would have been a treat to watch for him. But he was annoyed that she didn’t trust him.
What did she think? Was he so loose on the character that he would slip when his ex- tries to come back to his life!
He swayed his jaw side to side but didn’t reply to her. She was fuming in irritation and fury. One moment things would get better at her end and the next moment, something would happen to shatter that peace and calmness. It was getting too much for her to bear. She folded her hands across her chest and stared at Manik, waiting for him to explain, knowing very well that he won’t.
Cabir came inside, “Guys, I can’t find it in the living room or kitchen. Did you see here?”
Very angry at that, Nandini turned to him and said, “What do you think she was doing here in the bedroom that her ear-ring will drop here? Do you have any sense, Cabir?”
Cabir shrugged in defense, “How do I know? Ask your husband?”
Manik frowned, gritting his teeth but before he could say anything, Nandini turned around to face Cabir and subtly shoved him to send him out, “Don’t irritate us. Call that girl…whatever her name is… she can come here and look for where she dropped it… every place she visited here… and then maybe, she believes that it isn’t here at all. Why are we wasting our time?”
Cabir smirked, “Angry Nandini?!! I have never seen this face of yours… how ruthless!”
“This is nothing!” Nandini said, “Ask Manik… I can actually burn people with my breath, like a dragon!”
Cabir chuckled, trying to crack a joke, “That is why you identify with all those fantasy stories.”
Nandini rolled her eyes, “Go now…call her. Tell her that I want to meet her.”
Manik huffed after Cabir left and Nandini came back to him. He asked, “Sometimes, you surprise me, really!! Why did you call her?”
“To let her know that it is ‘my’ house. She can’t sit in Dhruv’s house and try to create chaos here.”
“You know what – I’m glad this topic came up. Let every stupid issue be sorted…and clarified!”
She rested her hands on her hips, “So? Do you want to clarify something?”
With a sly smirk, he shrugged, “You wish…”
She nodded, “How stubborn you can be?!”
“Will you believe it if I explain? What’s the use? I don’t want to defend myself…and then clarify it again and again…whenever this topic comes up!”
“You are hopeless!!” Nandini shrugged, pacing around the room, “Right now, I am so angry that I can kill this girl with my bare hands. How dare she?”
Nandini’s phone rang again. The ‘HOD’ was calling her again. Nandini picked up the call and said, “Yes, ma’am!”
“Nandini, Padma needs to go to a wedding today… So, you do the night tonight.”
Nandini was already irritated and angry. This added fuel to fire. She hissed, “Ma’am, I finished the night duty… and OPD after that… though it wasn’t my turn. I’ve come back home just a few hours back…”
HOD sweetly coaxed her, “It’s okay… these are the years to work hard. Make a career. Learn and get experience. Grow… Later you can rest and enjoy.”
Nandini chewed her lower lip listening to her. She was literally huffing fire by now. Manik observed every little spark coming back to her as Nandini spoke in a terse tone, still maintaining dignity and grace. She was assertive but never mannerless. She knew how to disagree and show anger without losing a respectful argument.
She asked, “So, ma’am, doesn’t this ‘work hard and learn’ theory apply to Dr. Padma? She doesn’t want to grow?”
“Come on! As I said, she is new to Bangalore…newly married… and not well these days. Today is an emergency…”
“Yeah! Emergency-wedding!” Nandini spoke sarcastically making Manik chuckle. He just loved it when she was in her element.
HOD didn’t like it. She snapped at her, “Listen, Nandini Murthy. This department runs according to me.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. But I’ve had enough! You’ve been very unfair and partial since Dr. Padma has joined and I can take no more.”
“You mean to say that you are leaving the job?”
“Of course not!” Nandini said sharply, “Why should I leave my job that is hard-earned. It’s my dignity. I won’t leave it but I demand justice, equal division of work and justified duties, the way human beings are capable of. I am sending you a mail of dissent and complaint – forwarding the same copy to the management of the hospital, all concerned authorities, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the Ministry of Labour. Let them decide what is right.”
“You are going very wrong, Nandini… very very wrong.” HOD warned her.
“Let it be. I’ve decided. And I am not coming on work till I get assurance that I will be treated fairly.”
“You can’t do this… you have to…” HOD was speaking before Nandini interrupted her.
“Thank you, Ma’am. But just a reminder – I didn’t do this. You forced me to take this route.”
She took a deep breath and paused, so as to not speak anything derogatory. By the time, she disconnected the phone, her anger had been released. She sighed deeply and then she panicked. She looked at Manik who was looking at her with an appreciative glance.
“Was I fine?” She asked nervously.
“Perfect!” He grinned.
She sat down, facing him, and asked in quick sentences, almost fear-stricken, “Oh My God! I spoke so many things. I actually threatened her. I hope it doesn’t backfire!”
Manik smiled and shrugged, “It won’t! And even if it does… we’ll face it!”
This one phrase was more than enough to make her feel confident that the decision she had taken was good and Manik was standing right beside her. She smiled too and heaved a deep sigh of relief. If she was able to do so much … it was only because Manik knew how to deal with her. He had pushed her to an edge that she had to take things in her control. There was no remedy besides this.
Her phone rang again. This time, it was Cabir. She slid the green button and put it on the speaker mode so that Manik could hear it too.
Cabir said, “I told her about what you said. But she chickened out. She doesn’t want to come and says that she is fine if she lost it.”
Nandini smirked, “I knew that! That’s what she is – A chicken! Tell her that if I see her around my house anytime again, I will hand her over to the securities for trying to disturb the peace.”
Cabir laughed and disconnected. This time, Manik was stunned. He didn’t expect this. He had been fearing a showdown and didn’t want Nandini to take any stress. But heer she had completely stumped him. Nandini turned to him and raised a brow, teasing him.
“I thought you called her to see what happened here in your absence. You wanted to know where she lost her ear-ring.”
“She didn’t lose her ear-ring… she was just trying to create a rift between us… she is still interested in you, right?” Asked Nandini.
Once again, she loved the hint of envy in her voice. Feeling privileged, he said, “On the contrary, she can’t believe it that I am happy. She is trying to prove that I am suffering and if I’m not, then she will see to it that I suffer.”
“Loser b*t*h!” Nandini angrily grumbled.
“Tch…Will you stop abusing, cursing people?” He frowned.
“Why? You didn’t like it when I spoke it for your girlfriend?”
“Ex …” He corrected her, “Ex – girlfriend.”
“But you were so angry a while ago… why did you think that she is making it up?”
Nandini shrugged, “Sixth sense! If she had lost it here, and if you were good to her, she would have come to search it. But she sent Cabir. She has no confidence to face me. And when called, she didn’t turn up. She left before I came here in the afternoon and when I came back, you were in a bad mood. So, I guessed that maybe, you asked her to leave. You do that with everyone…” She laughed candidly.
“Yeah! And every one actually listens to me and leaves… except you!”
She blushed first and then laughed again, “I won’t leave you even if you ask me to go. But I will always ensure that you regret that you said that!”
“I regretted it… too badly! Paying for it, even now!””
She grinned, “Good for you! You deserve that.”
“And I don’t know for how long you intend to bully me… you know… I was worried when Cabir came… I didn’t know what to say to convince you that there is nothing between her and me. It is easy to speak like this but tough when someone asks you to explain. And then you started searching for the ear-ring.”
She laughed, “I hated you for even talking to her… ”
“But I can’t believe it that you dealt with it so smartly despite being so angry.
Nandini gave it a long thought and said, “At first, I was angry when Cabir came looking for the ear-ring as I couldn’t bear even the thought of you being with that girl…”
He grinned this time, feeling on top of the world when she confessed that. He asked, “Then?”
“I asked my heart – If I have to choose between trusting you over anyone else in this world, what will I choose?”
“And?” He already knew the answer. He couldn’t stop grinning, feeling proud of her. She just had to confirm in words –
“It said that – I’ll choose to trust you!”